Saskatchewan

Sask. nurse says colleagues are burnt out, wants government to act on public health advice

A Saskatchewan public health nurse spoke at the legislature on Tuesday to raise awareness of the impacts the pandemic has had on health-care workers.

Government needs to take action to prevent post-Christmas wave of COVID-19 cases, says public health nurse

Public health nurse Carolyn Brost Strom said she is begging the government to act when local health teams call for it. Brost Strom said she is also concerned about the mental health of those working in health care. (Media pool)

A Saskatchewan public health nurse spoke at the legislature on Tuesday to raise awareness of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on health-care workers.

Carolyn Brost Strom said she wanted the government to hear first-hand from a health-care worker about the consequences of its decisions.

Brost Strom is a public health nurse in Prince Albert and has been working in contact tracing and vaccinations for the duration of the pandemic.

She said she reached out to speak to Premier Scott Moe about her experience and when that was declined, she turned to the Opposition NDP, whose leader, Ryan Meili, spoke with Brost Strom at an afternoon news conference at the legislature.

She outlined ways she thinks the government could improve its handling of the pandemic and how to help burnt-out health-care workers.

"I am begging our government to act when our local public health teams [have] identified they need to act," Brost Strom said.

She said she is particularly worried about the upcoming holiday season, "and making sure that there are guidelines and rules in place so … we don't have another wave [of COVID-19 cases]."

In late August and early September, public health teams were "hundreds of COVID-19 case investigations behind," Brost Strom said. The system was "set up to fail" when the government did not force close contacts of positive cases to self-isolate, she said.

"We know household close contacts, especially unvaccinated ones, were getting sick from COVID-19. And yet the government said it was OK for them to return to school while contagious."

Brost Strom said health-care workers will need additional help from government in the form of mental health supports.

The pandemic has taken a toll and has left her "just feeling sad coming to and from work, not being able to sleep well and then not being able to find joy in your work," she said.

"I love my job. I absolutely 100 per cent believe in what I'm doing. I know we make a difference. And so it's really tough then to feel like you're not valued or appreciated, and just feel like you're scrambling all the time."

The counselling that is offered through employers will not be enough for many in health care, she said.

"I think we need to look more long term. People are going to need some assistance longer than I think we're realizing."

Parents should be present for vaccinations: Merriman

Brost Strom said she was also concerned about a change to vaccine delivery at schools.

She said her child was initially eligible to be vaccinated at school with a consent form and no parent present, but that policy was changed to require parents to be present.

For children in Grade 5 and above, a consent form is typically the process used for all other in-school vaccinations, she said.

Meili said requiring parents to be present for vaccinations in school creates barriers.

The Opposition has asked for the government to extend its paid leave for vaccination to parents, but Health Minister Paul Merriman said Tuesday there are clinics available in the evening, as late as 10 p.m. in some communities.

"As opposed to other vaccines, this one has a lot of misinformation around it," Merriman said. 

"We want to make sure the child is getting the vaccine and the parent is comfortable. We don't want to ever give the perception we're giving the COVID-19 vaccine behind parents' backs. That's why we're asking them to be there."

Merriman said he wants parents to be able to explain the importance of the vaccine to their children and share the experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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